How Two Intelligent Communities Joined Forces to Grow Their Economies: Part One - A Canadian-Dutch Partnership Takes Shape

In 2007, the City of Waterloo was named Intelligent Community of the Year, an accolade that Eindhoven region also received in 2011. Because of their mutual international recognition and the specific attention that it bestows, the communities began a conversation that led to a strategic alliance and unique international form of economic development that thrives today.

Eindhoven-Kennispoort-250.gifThe Brainport Eindhoven region and the Region of Waterloo recognized early on that they had a plethora of commonalities. Here are two regions, similar in size, in two relatively small economic markets close to large ones, namely Germany and the United States. These are two small communities also overshadowed by well-known metropolitan areas, namely Amsterdam and Toronto. Yet despite these competitive challenges they have punched above their weight thanks to a variety of reasons. Both have access to top talent from leading higher education institutes like TU Eindhoven, the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, Fontys and Conestoga College. They are also research intensive and entrepreneurially minded and both boast the highest patent registrations in their respective countries. Business costs are low and R&D incentives are generous in both countries. They are in fortuitous geographic locations with proximity to large free trade markets through extensive logistics and broadband infrastructure. Both regions are innovative knowledge economies with a focus on ICT, advanced manufacturing, health technologies, and food processing. Lastly, both have burgeoning start up scenes, supported by good governance and a collaborative innovation ecosystem.

In 2013 after several reciprocal visits by CTT and Brainport, the mayors of Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge signed an MOU with the mayor of Eindhoven to formalize their ongoing discussions and to provide a basis for a framework going forward. The goal was to move beyond missions and develop the first global alliance of intelligent communities with the main objective of strengthening each other’s economies through a collaboration strategy. As a result of the trust and confidence that was developed through these relationships, considerable monetary and personnel resources were allocated to advance the initiative from both communities. Regular conference calls between the chairs of the steering committees is a key ingredient of the development and sustainability of this successful relationship.

The following themes were identified as high priority:

  • Talent attraction & retention, including a student exchange program and co-op placements
  • Strategies to manage labour market shifts
  • R&D collaboration
  • 2-way trade facilitation
  • Strategies to develop sectors such as ICT, high tech systems and materials (nano, quantum & mechatronics), food and automotive
  • Supporting start-ups and incubation
  • Sharing best practices in economic development
  • Soft-landing

In the next issue of this series, we will discuss how they turned intentions into action.

Victoria Krisman is Interactive Media Specialist for the Intelligent Community Forum.
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